Viewpoint: Lusher parents send letter to school officials decrying ‘racism within our school community in matters symbolic, structural, and everyday’

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The former Robert Mills Lusher School building on Willow Street was renamed for the parish's first Black superintendent.

The parents of students at Lusher Charter School sent a letter Monday (July 5) to the school’s Advocates for Arts -Based Education Board and the administration calling for a name change and for greater transparency.

The action comes after a reported exodus of faculty members and the exit of Principal Steve Corbett, who is set to become CEO of Audubon Schools.

The following was sent with the signatures 175 Lusher parents.

Dear Members of the Board, LCS administration, and LCS Community,

We are parents of students who attend LCS, and collectively have decades of experience with LCS.

We are dismayed with the administration and board’s response to student and faculty calls to confront racism within our school community in matters symbolic, structural, and everyday.

First, some of our teachers of color have now made it known that they are leaving the school because they do not feel their voices were respected. They believe that Lusher silences voices of dissent, rather than learn from their perspectives. These teachers were leaders in the school and mentors to African American and Asian American students.

We are writing to ensure there is a public record about our concerns and to notify you that we are paying attention and urge LCS to take concrete steps to recruit and retain faculty of color. At previous board meetings the need to hire more teachers of color has been emphasized, but we also need concrete changes to keep the teachers of color that we do have. Moreover, colleagues of color should not have to be championing change and anti-racism alone.

Second, almost one year ago, many members of the LCS community, led by the Black Student Union, marched to change the name and the culture of the school. They took it upon themselves to educate the public about the history behind the name and why it is just one of the numerous reasons they feel that they have felt undervalued at our school.

Third, we need greater transparency and communication. We have since witnessed board meetings where the board and top administrators have punted their responsibility to change the school program’s name, patronized student leaders (refusing to allow them membership on committees), and offered more platitudes than change. The administration’s deflection and stalling tactics speak volumes.

We urge you to:

1. Publicly recognize that the school should not honor a segregationist. Change the school program name of LCS, so that it no longer commemorates a deceased individual known for his explicit racism. For this process, the Administration will work with LCS Black Student Union and other vested groups (i.e. parents, students, alumni, teachers, etc) throughout the name-change process and include entities from each of these groups on a name change committee.

2. Commit to recruitment and retention of Black faculty and faculty of color. Provide transparent data, including a yearly account of faculty of color, faculty hiring, and faculty retention.

3. Create a transparent, comprehensive plan to address student, faculty, and staff experiences of racism within the school. These plans should be made with faculty, staff, and students at the table, and there should be regular, measurable updates to the school community on a yearly basis at minimum. The Diversity and Learning Pathway must remain focused on outcomes, not just aspirational goals, foster openness when we might fall short, and offer explanation and accountability for delays or challenges.

LCS promotes one of its strengths as its culture, dearly held by many students and parents for several decades. We understand that you may be hesitant to change the name of the school because you are proud of the accomplishments we’ve achieved in the name of our school. However, please know that these accomplishments are quickly being overshadowed. Support for our school does not mean blind loyalty — rather, we need active dialogue, responsiveness, and concrete actions.

LCS must educate our students for a changing world, one in which flexibility, empathy, awareness of diversity, and attention to structural inequities are imperative.

27 thoughts on “Viewpoint: Lusher parents send letter to school officials decrying ‘racism within our school community in matters symbolic, structural, and everyday’

  1. What percentage of the parents, is 175? I suspect it’s a minority trying to dominate a majority. Hopefully elites will not support or effectuate the objectives of the noisy, which are immaterial to education and hostile to tradition from which flows our strength and culture.

    • How many of these 175 names are parents of the same children? so it’s more likely it is less than 100 families out of how many?

      The School has been known as Lusher Elementary, Lusher Charter School or just “Lusher” for decades. No one affiliated the School with Robert M Lusher until the cancel culture started looking for names and statutes to tear down.

      If this school has all these problems why do they send their children there? I imagine there are dozens of families who would be thrilled to take the spots of these unhappy few.

      Proud parent of 2 Lusher graduates

      • Your statement is Very ignorant.. I have a African American son there. It’s because of ignorant people like you fight so hard to reverse these policies. It’s easy to run. But it takes strength to stay and fight not just for my child but the next generation also. I just want ALL students to be treated EQUAL!!!

        • If you want ALL student to be treated equal then the designation of “Black” should be dropped from the conversation. The best teachers and administrators should be hired and retained regardless of race. But it looks like what you want is preferential treatment for one group over another based on race. Isn’t that the definition of racist?

          So if you truly want ALL student treated equal then there should be no BLACK student union and no discussion of race. Or is the designation of race only okay when it benefits you?

        • Just because you’re too blind and ignorant to realize why there is racism in this school, it’s because it’s in a liberal school district, everyone of this racist students are being raised by parents who voted for joe Biden. No matter how big they make your welfare check, you will never be their equal. You will always be someone who depends on them, who is lower than them. Wake up

      • The fact that Lusher is a good school academically and in many other respects doesn’t give the administration and the board a pass on addressing racism and implicit bias within the school community. I have never understood the attitude of certain Lusher parents who have a knee jerk reaction to significant complaints and default to a position of telling other parents that if they have an issue with the school there are many other families who would love to take their spots. We are talking about racism here, not complaints about upgrading the restrooms etc.

      • Ma’am I’m a lusher graduate 2010 and us black kids were treated differently at times. Especially for things like our natural hair. Yes I received a good education but there are some things and views that need to change. Mr Corbet was awesome and helped my sister when she was a student there as well in her time of need.

    • Thanks for weighing in on the situation. Most of the issues raised in the letter are relevant to all campuses, but there are some that are specific to elementary, middle or high school campuses. What grades are your kids in at Lusher?

    • You say “it’s a minority trying to dominate a majority.” Sounds like you wouldn’t have supported slave rebellions either eh …another case of superiority vs inferiority and suppressing minority voices? Get a life dude.

  2. Choosing not to renew the contract of Principal Corbett – the best principal Lusher High School has ever had – is hardly “immaterial to education.” And if the objectives of the “noisy” are to adequately address racism then everyone should be on board.

  3. Lusher always been a racist school back in the 60’s. When I went there. IF was uncover.Mr. Riedlinger because Principles of Lucher early 80’s and he open doors to every one. And then Katie Riedlinger came And the racism started. Mr. Riedlinger left the school the next year. And it been he’ll every since. My daughter attended Lusher 3 grade to 8 grade. They would have secret meetings. All the time at the school away from the school at Audubon school . Yes she had her hand in that school and Tulane backing her up with what ever she need. In 1998 the black teacher started leaving the school or retired early from Lusher because they did not matter . 2005 came Katrina Katie Riedlinger because the CEO of both . P]pp]Now the rebirth of the high school. So people are being displace and there are back at their secret meetings. So it been going for years. You all know this. Riedlinger is the racist.

  4. Wait, Wait, Wait – first the problem was not enough black teachers, faculty and staff and now when a presumably straight, white, male has his contract not renewed this shows racism?

    Wouldn’t this pave the way for a black gender fluid principal?

    We need a score card or something to follow the logic here.

    Sounds more like no matter what the school does, if a certain ground does not like it, it is racist…

    • I think you missed the point. The principal’s contract was reportedly not renewed due to his position regarding the reported failure of the school administration to address racism and related issues. Simply put, the principal was appropriately attempting to address racism and implicit bias in the school community and had the integrity and courage to advise the school’s CEO and its board regarding his experience in attempting to deal with these matters.

      • Shouldn’t the principal be implementing the policy of the CEO and the board? This is a case of the principal wanting to implement his policy in spite of the school policy. He should have been fired the first time he took any action that was not implementing school policy. Parents can complain about a school policy but an employee of the school should not. If he doesn’t like the policy, he can leave.

      • I think Ms. Kohn that you miss the point. It sounds like the principal was not retained because he was not implementing the policy the board chose to take. As an employee of the school, his job is to implent the policy of the board, not to implement his own policy.

        The board established how it wished to respond to the claims of racism and the principal should have followed that policy. It did not show “integrity and courage” to go public with his disagreements with the board.

        I will be eagerly awaiting how the Messenger seeks out employees at Audubon that disagree with policies established at that school and how Mr. Corbet makes public all of the disagreements he has with the Audubon board. I am assuming that he will immediately seek to remove the name of a slave owner from his new school. Any updates on that effort?

  5. Hey y’all!
    Daniel Porea, here! I am a recent graduate of LCS (’21). I graduated from LCS with one of the most distinctive records of my class and I could not be more thankful of the intense, all-purpose, robust education I received. My diploma holds weight and I made a name for myself at Lusher, as a black student.

    I joined Lusher in the 8th grade and from the moment I stepped foot on campus my experiences would be tainted by the various aspects of my identity that do not mix well with the LCS Administration’s concept of what is palpable for the “professional setting.” I was, quickly, one of very few black kids in any given class. I was, swiftly, bullied for my expression and my blackness. I was alienated from the moment I stepped foot onto the Freret campus. It wasn’t until I conformed to the toxic, misogynistic, anti-black, expectations of several racist faculty members that I had regular run-ins with, the dress code, and the overarching gaze of the LCS administration on everything that we (as students do).

    Racism is pervasive. And for the inconsiderate parents who have brushed away the valid and loud remarks black and brown students, parents and allies have made over the past decade and already commented nasty things about the students and parents of color, pervasive, means spread widely throughout a group of people in an often unwelcome manner. It is entrenched in our subconscious. It requires daily unlearning for the structures put in place that exact violence on black people to be undone.

    Over the past five years, I have gained a stunning education (no thanks to the several teachers who get reported every single year for racially insensitive behavior), at the cost of countless racialized traumatic acts of violence that reinforce white supremacy in our education system, that could have been avoided all-together if the administration had been listening to its black and brown students rather than propping them up and masquerading them around for their acceptances into Ivy League Schools, millions of dollars in scholarships and countless other accolades. The time for LCS to choose its student body and create systems that promote anti-racism and an intolerance to bigotry at the hands of faculty members and students alike is past due. They have shown that they can’t follow any of their own Project Pride Rules.

    You should have done something transparent when students called upon you a decade ago not to remain named after a segregationist.

    You should have committed to doing something when there were 50+ posts on The PrideofLusher Instagram detailing countless instances of racialized violence against YOUR students of color.

    You should have done something when we were at your Freret doorsteps with national attention approximately last July.

    Be Kind. Respect others and their Property. Be Responsible. Do Your Best Work.

    You haven’t been kind to your teachers or students of color. You don’t respect us or our massive contributions to your school community and the Greater New Orleans community. You have not been responsible for the acts of violence exacted upon your students every day. You have not done your best work, and the mess that has happened so far is your doing because of the immature, and poorly executed attempts at procrastinating the inevitable.

    People at Lusher have hurt me on levels one cannot imagine simply for the color of my skin.

    • Daniel, thank you for posting this and sharing your story, your experience, your truth. I am sorry that there are parents and other Lusher community members that continue to tell you and other students and teachers that there is not a racial equity problem at Lusher. I believe Dr. Corbett tried to address these issues and was therefore let go. Denying that these issues exist will only make things worse. Lusher is stuck and needs to move forward. As a current Lusher, I appreciate so many wonderful aspects of the school but also acknowledge that we have some serious problems that need to be addressed openly and freely, instead of sweeping them under the rug.

    • Could you elaborate on an instance of what you call “racialized violence” that you say occurred at Lusher? Because, so far, you haven’t been more specific than citing dress code violations, which are pretty standard at most schools and which I racked up plenty of myself in school, thinking nothing of them other than minor annoyances. I certainly wouldn’t call it an act of violence.

      If you could be more specific I think it would help us all understand better what you’re speaking of.

      • This is like… if a woman came to you and said her husband had abused her, you asking her “But, exactly what did he do? Where did he hit you?”

        Mr. Porea has already done a great service in sharing his experience — something he didn’t have to do. He doesn’t owe you or anyone else a detailed re-living of the ways he was disrespected, rejected, condescended, or dismissed.

    • Why did you stay? Why are there so many parents trying to get their children into Lusher? Why aren’t you focusing your efforts on improving the failing schools in Orleans Parish?

      • ditto Tom — attended schools in 8th and 9th ward 1950-early 60’s and often was made fun of very thick wavy red hair, freckles etc mostly by kids with beautiful surnames often ending in vowels –it bothered me but parents told me good grades more important then looks –told me my obvious ethnic / racial looks were something to be proud of and school was to learn and not about looks or even a feelings contest — life had problems even in elementary school — then JFK was elected president and I felt okay reddish hair, freckled, and surname similar to mine

        lesson: even young pinkish spotted people have sensitivities, deal with it and keep eye on purpose—– education

    • Daniel, Please consider submitting this to the editor of The Washington Post! I hope you publish this elsewhere. It is very well thought out and written.

    • I’m a Lusher alumna (’83-92), and am so proud of you.

      I am ashamed of the leadership at Lusher right now, and ready to put a new name on the whole program.

      Thank you for sharing your experience — and for sticking it out despite the cruelty you experienced.

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